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Admirers pay final tribute to Coretta Scott King

King, widow of Martin Luther King Junior, was a civil rights activist in her own right and sought to carry on her husband's mission after his assassination.

india Updated: Feb 07, 2006 13:07 IST
Agence France-Presse
Agence France-Presse

Friends, family, celebrities and admirers prepared to pay their final tribute to Coretta Scott King in song and prayer on Tuesday in the church where her husband preached non-violence and justice from the pulpit.

King, who died January 30 at the age of 78, lay in honor at Ebenezer church in Atlanta, clad in a rose-colored outfit with wreaths surrounding the casket and the inscription: "We love you."

Thousands of mourners, many of whom had travelled long distances, braved driving rain outside to file past the open casket at the red brick Ebenezer church, where her husband's father and grandfather had once preached.

"She was more than just a wife," said Samantha, 45, who took her three young children out of school to attend. "She created her own legacy."

King, widow of Martin Luther King Junior, was a civil rights activist in her own right and sought to carry on her husband's mission after his assassination in 1968.

"She was a great woman, we pray that we have someone to fill her shoes," said Dwight MacMutay, 35, a US Navy sailor among the mostly African-American crowd waiting outside the church.

Over the weekend, thousands more viewed King's open casket in the state Capitol.

She became the first woman and the first black person to be honored with a public viewing in the government seat of the southern state of Georgia.

Her husband was denied the honor under then-governor Lester Maddox following his April 1968 assassination.

Television presenter and actress Oprah Winfrey spoke of King with emotion and humor, saying the "queen" of civil rights had left America better than she found it.

"My prayer is that the greatness ...that she lived will now find a home within us," Winfrey said.

A friend of Coretta Scott King, Barbara Reynolds, described the racist climate that shaped her generation's attitude and bearing.

"In the South, since black women were so disrepsected by whites, our response was to push our shoulders back, keep our head high and walk with dignity and look as if we had oil wells in our backyard," Reynolds said.

In the afternoon, prayers, song and dance honored the memory and work of King, who founded The King Center dedicated to Martin Luther King Junior's legacy.

President George W Bush has postponed a trip to New Hampshire to attend King's funeral, scheduled here for Tuesday, and was expected to make remarks as part of the service, the White House said.

Former President Bill Clinton was also expected to speak, along with veteran civil rights activists and leaders.

Bush on Monday ordered US flags over all government buildings, military posts, naval stations, ships and US diplomatic posts abroad to be flown at half-staff on Tuesday to honor King.

Reverend Jesse Jackson, a former aide to King's husband who is scheduled to speak at Tuesday's funeral, told the agency that Bush was damaging the interests of African Americans by cutting government assistance programs for the poor.

"President Bush stands against all of our rights," he said.

First Published: Feb 07, 2006 13:07 IST